By Evan Wray, co-founder and VP of Swyft Media
The digital advertising world as we know it is being turned on its head. Things like native ads and banners are being presented with a significant challenge. Ad blockers are posing a real threat as to whether or not millions of dollars spent on ads will be rendered useless. In addition, consumers (younger consumers primarily) are becoming less tolerant of anything that appears to be a blatant and strategically placed endorsement by a brand. This has left advertisers and brands in a vulnerable position. Mobile and advertising budgets are on the rise, but how do brands find the most effective way to use these dollars to reach consumers in a way that will translate to brand recognition and brand loyalty? How can brands jump ahead of the ad blocker challenge and capitalize on new opportunities - ones that drive engagement and conversation? First, look in the places that consumers spend most of their time today.
Earlier this year, Mary Meeker's annual Internet trends report found that six of the 10 most downloaded applications were mobile messaging apps. Pew Research found that 97 percent of smartphone owners use their mobile messaging app more than any other app on their phone. The opportunity for brands and advertisers to reach consumers in this medium is ripe but they must do it in a way that is not detrimental to the in-app experience. That means, no pop ups, no forced videos and no blatant branded banners. Brands have a chance to become a part of the world's largest conversation by understanding that consumers in these environments want to engage and will engage with a brand if there is fun, personalized and appealing content that they can share with friends. Branded content like custom emoji and chats are two examples of things that consumers are opting in for and creating a ripple effect of sharing and conversation. Why? The content is fun, shareable and can be shared as a sentiment as part of a conversation.
Just ask MillerCoors. When looking for new ways to reach millennials during the Super Bowl earlier this year, they ran a campaign across several mobile messaging apps offering users free emoji of things like two Miller Lite beer bottles clinking saying "cheers" and a guy with his fingers crossed and Miller Lite bottle in his hands. The emoji pack was downloaded 500,000 times and the emoji were shared more than a billion times. MillerCoors describes the opportunity as one ripe for success. Dilini Fernando, a digital marketing manager at MillerCoors said in a recent interview, "As a brand marketer you're giving the elements to your consumers, and they are actively talking about it." Why is it such a win/win for brands? "You're not only able to inspire the conversation, to be part of the conversation, but a lot of the time, we were the topic of the conversation."
Brand engagement and brand impressions are becoming less about click-throughs and more about how people are talking about your brand, how they are relating to your brand and how they are sharing that sentiment with their friends and network.
Companies like Universal Pictures, Ford, L'Oreal, Sony Entertainment and 1-800 Flowers have also used branded emoji campaigns to engage consumers in new ways. Universal ran a campaign for the Minions movie this past summer which saw 1.3 million downloads of the emoji pack and more than 10 million shares across various mobile messaging platforms.
So, while brands are figuring out ways on how to beat ad blockers or putting their heads together on how to make a video that a consumer won't "skip", their competitors are on the bleeding edge of a new model. One that removes the barriers to entry and creates a conversation with the brand at the center of that discussion.
About the Author
Evan Wray is co-founder and VP of Swyft Media, a subsidiary of Monotype . Swyft's mobile marketing platform helps brands and advertisers like MGM, Sega, Dreamworks, MillerCoors and Fox, among others, engage consumers with in-app branded mobile content like themed keyboards, digital stickers, emojis and gifs.
Evan founded Swyft with his college roommate with the simple goal of creating custom emoji that they could send to their friends. They uncovered a bigger opportunity to license content from other schools, professional sports team and ultimately iconic global brands. In 2013, Evan co-developed the Swyft Media Platform and Partner Network, comprised of premium-licensed brands and messaging apps. Today, Swyft has more than 300 brand partnerships and 50+ mobile messaging partners (Kik, Viber, BBM, Kakao Talk, etc.) and is quickly becoming the go-to solution for brands who want to engage and monetize mobile users without interrupting the app experience.
Evan holds a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame.